What Types of Fundraising are Right for Your Organization?
Close your eyes and think about what fundraising looks like to you. Is it a group of well-heeled folks attending a gala and holding auction paddles? Is it a group of young people with bright t-shirts and iPads coming up to chat to you in the street? Maybe it’s pigtailed girl scouts with irresistible cookies. Or maybe it’s you, sitting behind a desk with your phone glued to your ear, furiously typing up emails and grant proposals whilst staring forlornly at your abandoned lunch.
The truth is it’s all of these things and more. You may be just starting out – in which case, our nonprofit fundraising guide is a great place to start – or maybe you’ve been doing this so long you’ve developed a little tunnel vision (and probably haven’t had time for lunch in years). Either way, read on for the different types of fundraising your organization could be doing. Learn the pros and cons of each, and what type of situations they work best for. As always, knowing and understanding your donors is the best place to start when thinking about what will be most effective in reaching them and encouraging them to reach into their pockets.
1. Hosting an event
Pros : These are usually fun to attend, and therefore exciting and attractive to supporters. It’s a great way to bring in new donors. Fundraising events can increase your visibility, especially if there is media awareness. They often draw in large crowds, and work great in combination with email campaigns, as they are an effective way to grow your contact list. They also allow your team, including your board, to engage directly with supporters.
Cons : They are resource intensive, requiring a lot of time and planning to arrange, and can be costly without a guaranteed return on investment. They are also vulnerable to changes in people’s mood, the weather, or competing events on at the same time.
2. Text to give
Pros : There are tools available to make this a super simple way for your donors to give, making it enormously popular.. The ease of use makes it a great way to receive regular donations. Almost everybody has access to a mobile phone.
Cons : Although donations can be regular ( usually not recurring with this type), they are often quite small amounts. The tool used may also charge transaction fees and cause significant delays in getting access to your funds. There is also minimal meaningful donor engagement with this method.
3. Crowdfunding campaign
Pros : It’s a great way to engage with your supporters and get them enthusiastic and knowledgeable about your organisation. This method is also less labour intensive than some of the other methods.
Cons : Although it saves your time spent working on fundraising, it can also see funds trickle in fairly slowly. There are usually also platform fees that are covered by you, the organisation.
4. Peer to peer
Pros : Similar to crowdfunding but can be faster and have a higher return on investment, as you are getting teams of supporters to do the crowdfunding for you.
Cons : However, you will need to invest time and resources attracting supporters to the project, training them up, and supporting them as they go along. This kind of campaign is usually also linked with a specific event, which you may need to organise.
5. Silent auction/ service auction
Pros : This kind of fundraiser is great in conjunction with events like tournaments, festivals, or cocktail parties, where guests are moving around and doing their own thing. They also work very well if you already have some kind of sponsorship or prizes available from your partners.
Cons : They can be fairly easily ignored, and sometimes supporters don’t want to sign up for the first bid. There needs to be a bit of monitoring and encouraging here, so there is usually some labour requirement.
6. Online donations
Pros : Online fundraising is a very effective way to attract new donors, and also works well for asking donors to give more, or on a recurring basis. Using software such as Keela, donor engagement can be high, personalised, and automated. The accessibility of online giving also levels the playing field for organisations and donors alike – everybody can participate.
Cons : This method doesn’t reach everybody. If your donor base is very heavily made of older folk, they may not be giving as much in this way. Although using the software saves a ton of time and resources in the long run, there is usually a payment involved, and most systems require you to spend some time onboarding and learning how to use the system to its full benefit.
7. Email Campaigns
Pros : This is one of the most effective fundraising methods out there. It is inexpensive, automated and customisable, uses data you already have, and is easy to manage. There are a number of software products on the market that can easily automate this for you and make it a major part of your fundraising strategy. Check out Keela’s toolsfor more on easy implementation of email campaigns.
Cons : Most people’s inboxes are already pretty crowded, and you’ll need to use engaging language to make your emails stand out.
8. Letter campaigns
Pros : If online donations aren’t reaching a sizable portion of your supporters, letters may be the way to go.
Cons : However, sending out mail is slow, labour intensive, hard to track, easy to ignore, and uses a lot of paper which will not be popular with a more environmentally aware supporter base.
9. Door to door
Pros : This method is a great way to target your audience and make a personal ask.
Cons : It can also be super invasive and annoying to your potential donors. It’s highly labour intensive as you need salaried, trained staff to make door-to-door visits.
10. Face to face
Pros : This is door-to-door 2.0 and is pretty popular. It also allows you to make a personal ask and provides an opportunity to engage directly with donors and raise awareness for your organisation.
Cons : Some people find it only slightly less annoying than door-to-door, and it still requires the same amount of labour and training.
11. Phone solicitations
Pros : Again, this allows for personal engagement. It’s also really effective on donors you already know are looking to give (use your contact data to tell you this information).
Cons : As with any personal engagement method, it’s labour intensive and requires substantial training – both on your organisation and in telesales. Additionally these days it can be hard to reach someone if they don’t recognize the incoming number.
12. Corporate Partnerships and Foundation/Government Grants
Pros : The amounts can be very large, reliable, and recurring. That is fantastic news for budgeting and forward planning. The association with a large partner can also increase your organisation’s visibility.
Cons : Companies, foundations, and especially government bodies, can be highly bureaucratic and have strict proposal requirements. This type of fundraising often requires you to have a specialised grant writer on your team. The large sums of money also often come with conditions. Even though the money can be very appealing, think carefully about whether the association that comes with certain corporations is one that actually works for your foundation and values.
13. Gift matching
Pros : Having your organisation or a partner match your supporters’ donations if they reach a certain goal is highly motivating for donors and you can often make substantial asks. Corporate partners will often make up the difference even if donors aren’t able to get halfway there on their own.
Cons : You’ll still need to source the partner who will be matching the gift or find a way to match it yourself.
You certainly do not need to do all of these. Think about where your time and money spent will give you the highest return on investment. When thinking about which methods may work best for you, keep in mind the following:
Who are your biggest, most reliable supporters? Segment your donors so that you understand where most of your revenue comes from. Are your donors mostly individuals, corporate partners, foundations or government grants? Do you receive most of your revenue through direct donations, or pledges? Which method gives you the most recurring donations?
Develop a clear fundraising strategy so that whatever fundraising campaigns you choose, they are immediately followed up with regular, personalised donor engagement. Be specific with your goals, and set milestones and incentives for reaching them
Lastly, but critically, monitor and track the success of your campaigns! This information is critical for figuring out what works and what doesn’t and will give you the confidence to experiment with new methods.